US-based cargo forwarder sets up Subic hub

July 20, 2009 11:25 pm 

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, July 21 — One of the top three door-to-door cargo forwarders in the Philippines — Atlas Shippers International Inc. — is setting up the Port of Subic as an entry point for “balikbayan” boxes, a billion-peso industry that relies on efficient port logistics.

Atlas used the Subic port for the first time recently, officially marking the US-based firm’s intent to establish the Subic Bay Freeport as its hub for Northern Luzon operations.

The 40-foot cargo container that held 420 balikbayan boxes took off from the Atlas branch in Covina, California on June 24, and arrived here last Wednesday.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza, the business sector is now taking notice of the advantages of using the Port of Subic, which boasts of two container terminals with a combined capacity of 600,000 TEUs.

“This is a small beginning towards greater things to come,” said Arreza during the ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the New Container Terminal-1 (NCT-1) compound that was also attended by Subic-Clark Alliance Development Council chairman Edgardo Pamintuan, Subic customs district collector Marietta Zamoranos, and some officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Arreza also pointed out that the SBMA is positioning Subic Bay as a maritime gateway for Luzon and a prime logistics hub for Southeast Asia.

Atlas president Joel Longares said the company’s cargo load, which come from branches in Australia, Hong Kong, Italy and the United States, will peak at about 30 containers per month.

He said Atlas will hire about 50 employees for its Subic hub, where they will also install cargo sorting equipment.

Atlas currently has a warehouse in Las Piñas City, which Longares said will be maintained for their Southern Luzon operations.

The first container to arrive through the port of Subic, he added, will be a “test run” to determine the viability of this port as the sole discharging point for Luzon.

“We’ll have to determine if we could save money this way,” said Longares, explaining that boxes for delivery to Southern Luzon will be hauled by truck from this free port, to their Las Piñas hub.

He added that to offset trucking costs, they will be counting on Subic’s tax incentives, lower tariff rates (as compared to the Port of Manila), complete support facilities and infrastructures, strategic location made more accessible by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and faster document processing.

Longares said the balikbayan box is a billion-peso industry “with much room for growth.” With Subic as their hub of operations, Longares said he expects the company to grow significantly, and even expand to service outbound cargoes.

The Subic Freeport, through its port modernization program, has developed a wide range of cargo-handling services to meet President Arroyo’s mandate to establish the Subic-Clark corridor as a mega-logistics and service hub in Southeast Asia.

The 300,00-TEU NCT-1 is operated by the Subic Bay International Terminals Corp. (SBITC), a subsidiary of the International Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which is a leading player in global maritime services and port operations.

Longares, who started his company in 1993, said the Subic Freeport holds promising business prospects, and that “it is only a matter of time” before other shipping lines and cargo handlers locate here.

“Aggressive marketing is what the Subic Freeport needs,” Longares said, and lauded the joint marketing efforts of the SBMA and the SCADC which led Atlas to locate its hub in Subic Bay. (PNA) FFC/MD/ps

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